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What we know today, Wednesday November 18


Welcome to your serving of the day’s breaking news from South Australia, the nation and abroad.

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BREAKING: SA to enter circuit breaker lockdown for six days

South Australia will enter a circuit breaker lockdown for the next six days, with pubs, cafes, schools, workplaces and food courts to close at midnight tonight for the next six days.

No weddings or funerals will be permitted to go ahead, masks will become mandatory for all movement outdoors, regional travel has been banned and no outdoor exercise is allowed.

Other blanket restrictions apply for takeaway food, universities, open inspections and auctions, the construction industry, factories not producing food or medical supplies. All aged care facilities will enter lockdown, holiday homes will not be available for rent or lease and outdoor sport will be banned.

The drastic measures mean only essential workers and people accessing essential services will be able to leave their house over the next six days.

The move comes after two new positive cases were confirmed overnight and seven other cases are being treated as positive until proven otherwise.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the lockdown “really is extreme” but is “the one chance we’ve got to have a normal Christmas”.

The lockdown applies to the entire state, even though cases so far are only confirmed in Adelaide and the surrounding suburbs. Spurrier said this is because SA cannot put a ring of steel in place for Adelaide like Victoria did around Melbourne.

More to come

Flinders University positive case attended three classes last week

An English language student who tested positive for COVID-19 this week attended classes at Flinders University’s Sturt campus on November 9, 13 and 17 according to the Intensive English Language Institute (IELI).

The IELI is now advising all its students to get tested for COVID-19 and self-isolate, with the institute working to support SA Health’s contact tracing efforts.

Flinders University Sturt campus and areas surrounding closed yesterday for deep cleaning.

Northern Territory reopens to regional SA

The Northern Territory has reduced its COVID-19 hotspot declaration, which previously included the whole of South Australia, to cover just Adelaide and surrounding suburbs.

Health Minister Natasha Fyles says the quarantine requirement for travellers will now apply to 20 local government areas.

But the minister has defended the original decision to close the border to the entire state after news emerged at the weekend of a growing coronavirus cluster in Adelaide’s north.

“When we saw the cases build on Sunday, from four to 17, we made that decision to have the whole of South Australia declared a hotspot,” Fyles told reporters today.

“We didn’t know at that point where people might have travelled, where this virus might have spread to.”

US to slash troop levels in Afghanistan

President Donald Trump will sharply reduce the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January, the Pentagon has announced, stopping short of a full withdrawal from America’s longest war.

Trump’s decision to limit himself to a partial withdrawal was first reported by Reuters on Monday and triggered a rebuke from senior Republicans who fear it will undermine security and hurt fragile peace talks with the Taliban.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who Trump installed last week after abruptly firing Mark Esper, confirmed the Afghan drawdown and also outlined a modest withdrawal of forces from Iraq that will reduce troop levels there from 3000 to 2500.

“By January 15, 2021, our forces, their size in Afghanistan, will be 2500 troops. Our force size in Iraq will also be 2500 by that same date,” Miller told reporters.

“This is consistent with our established plans and strategic objectives, supported by the American people, and does not equate to a change in US policy or objectives.”

Moments later, the top Republican in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, warned against any major changes in US defence or foreign policy in the next couple of months – including any precipitous troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Trump is due to leave office on January 20 after losing this month’s presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden. He has launched legal challenges to vote counts in some swing states which he says were fraudulent but legal experts give him little chance of success.

Roma Mitchell Secondary College to stay closed until November 30

Roma Mitchell Secondary College will stay closed for cleaning until at least November 30, according to the SA Department of Education.

The state school closed yesterday after SA Health advised that a student at the school tested positive.

The northern suburbs college is one of five schools currently shut down for cleaning due to a student either testing positive for COVID-19 or being a close contact of a positive case.

SA Labor calls for more testing resources

Testing stations should remain open around the clock and more should be opened in Adelaide’s north to handle a surge in demand because of a growing COVID-19 cluster, the South Australian opposition says.

Labor has also called on SA Health to create a dedicated clinic for people urgently being asked to get tested because they may have links to the Parafield outbreak.

“It has been outstanding to see so many South Australians do the right thing and seek to get a COVID-19 test,” Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said today.

“But it has been disturbing to see people, many of them unwell, forced to wait for more than 10 hours, with many turned away.

“It’s understandable there would be long queues in the immediate hours following news of this cluster, but it’s now been three days.”

Malinauskas said the urgency of the situation was even greater with Adelaide forecast to have a top temperature of 34C on Wednesday, meaning many people will spend hours in the heat waiting for a test.

About 5000 people were tested on Monday and more than 6000 on Tuesday with some people forced to wait in line for up to 12 hours and others turned away when centres closed.

Feds rail against SA border closures

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has railed against border closures put in place by Queensland, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and WA over the new SA coronavirus cluster.

McCormack said there was no need for internal border restrictions with families looking to reunite over Christmas.

“What we need now is we do need businesses to reopen,” he told Channel 9 this morning.

“We do need Australians to get back to work and we do need those borders to be open.”

NSW is telling people to delay travel to SA, while Victoria has asked for South Australians to cancel all non-essential travel.

The two most populous states have left their borders open and ramped up screening of Adelaide arrivals.

AFP conducts raids on construction union

Australian Federal Police are conducting raids in inner Sydney targeting the construction workers’ union.

The AFP confirmed it has executed search warrants at Sydney properties on Wednesday as part of a trade union task force investigation.

“As this remains an ongoing investigation, no further information can be provided at this time,” an AFP statement said.

Searches are being carried out at the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union headquarters at Pyrmont and, it’s believed, at the homes of union officials.

The union, which represents about 180,000 workers nationally, is preparing for the election of officials, including its state president, with the ballot due to open in January.

In 2014 the Australian government established a joint police taskforce to investigate conduct uncovered by the royal commission into union corruption.

The taskforce is co-ordinated by the AFP in conjunction with state police teams, and NSW police are on site at the CFMEU’s Pyrmont office.

Victoria to keep border open with SA

Victoria will keep its South Australian border open as a coronavirus testing site is to be set up for interstate truck drivers.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services also has asked South Australians to cancel all non-essential travel to Victoria.

As SA deals with its outbreak crisis, on Wednesday Victoria reached 19 days without any deaths or new cases.

There are three active cases and 17,354 people were tested in the previous 24 hours.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said on this morning that the SA border status was being reviewed hourly.

“We have no plans to close our borders, but we are monitoring literally on an hourly basis the situation in SA,” Foley told Channel Nine.

“Of course, we reserve the right to take further measures if the advice changes.”

A testing site will be set up in Nhill, near the SA border, and will start on Thursday.

“The SA government has asked us to assist when it comes to testing, particularly of interstate truck movements,” Foley said.

He also backed the Victorian contact tracing system, which came in for much criticism during the state’s second wave.

“Our contact tracing system is now excellent,” he said.

“It has been tested like no other system across the country, whether that be in the Shepparton outbreak, the northern suburbs outbreak, the Kilmore outbreak.

“We are sharing those learnings with all the other jurisdictions and we’re seeing a lot of those learnings applied in SA now.

“I’ve got to say, the South Australians are doing a fantastic effort.”

A screening process has been instituted for every SA arrival at Melbourne and Mildura airports.

Names and details of 122 passengers aboard two flights to Tullamarine on Monday were recorded and 81 of those tested, with more planes expected to land on Wednesday.

More cases expected today as tighter restrictions flagged

The state government has brought forward its daily coronavirus briefing to 10.45am as South Australia braces for more COVID-19 cases today.

Premier Steven Marshall told ABC Radio this morning that more cases would be announced this morning and additional restrictions would “possibly” be introduced.

“We just really need to see where this goes,” he said.

“You only get one chance to stop a second wave and that chance is right now.

“The consequence of letting this thing getting away from us is absolutely catastrophic … we don’t want that to happen in South Australia.

Five new coronavirus cases were announced yesterday afternoon at 3.40pm – at least four of which are linked to the Parafield cluster in Adelaide’s north.

Marshall said yesterday there are now potentially up to 21 cases linked to the Parafield cluster, which started when a worker at Peppers medi-hotel on Waymouth Street became infected and transmitted the disease to their extended family.

Of the four new cases announced yesterday linked to the cluster, one works at AnglicareSA’s residential aged care home at Brompton and the other three cases are relatives of one of the medi-hotel security guards who tested positive yesterday.

SA Health said the fifth case is believed to be locally-acquired.

The five new cases range from teenagers to people aged in their 50s and either have no COVID-19 symptoms or are mildly symptomatic, meaning they are in the early stages of the disease.

They are all currently in hotel quarantine.

Spurrier said authorities were treating an additional 14 people as suspect cases, as they have been in close contact with infected people linked to the Parafield cluster.

The 14 people are either waiting for test results or received initial negative results and are getting retested.

“Because we want to be very, very precautionary and really work very quickly that is why we are calling them suspect cases and we’ve put public health into action to make sure that we can contain it (the virus),” Spurrier said.

There are about 4000 close contacts of known cases who have been forced into quarantine.

Long queues have also been seen at COVID-19 testing centres across Adelaide.

Positive coronavirus cases lockdown pizza bar, uni campus

Flinders University has closed its Sturt Campus after a positive case while anyone who visited a Woodville South pizza shop in the past 12 days is being asked to immediately self-quarantine and get tested.

SA Health issued a statement just before midnight insisting anyone who visited or got takeaway, including delivery, from the Woodville Pizza Bar, 58 Woodville Road, Woodville from November 6-16 must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days.

“This includes people who live with you,” the media release said.

“People who visited across this period should seek testing as soon as possible. They must go directly to the testing location, wear a mask and alert the staff that they have visited the pizza bar.

“This is a high-risk location due to a link with positive cases.”

Flinders University last night issued a statement saying that a person who attended its Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) yesterday tested positive to COVID-19.

The university’s Sturt campus at this stage will remain closed until 8am Monday with staff and students asked to work from home.

“We are working closely with SA Health and IELI as further information emerges. At this stage no Flinders staff or student has been identified as a close contact and there are no confirmed cases amongst Flinders University staff or students,” the statement said.

“Out of an abundance of caution, effective immediately, all buildings on the Sturt Campus are closed while deep cleaning of the IELI rooms and shared/ common spaces of Sturt Campus is conducted.

“This closure includes IELI itself as well as Health2Go, FISC, Sturt Library and the Sturt Café.”

Roma Mitchell Secondary College at Gepps Cross, Mount Carmel College at Rosewater, Mawson Lakes School and Preschool, Holy Family Catholic School at Parafield Gardens and Thomas More College at Salisbury Downs have all been indefinitely shut after students or staff members were either infected with COVID-19 or came in close contact with positive cases.

SA Police have issued a directive for visitors to medi-hotel Peppers Waymouth Hotel Adelaide between November 15 to immediately self-isolate and get tested.

This applies to any person including but not limited to worker, contractor, guest, delivery driver, etc.

SA Health also added more hot spots about 7.30pm last night, including the Morphett Arms Hotel at Glengowrie and Eblen Collision Repairs at Somerton Park.

Together with the Flinders University Sturt Campus, they are among the first Parafield cluster hot spots in Adelaide’s southern suburbs. Almost all other places previously listed have been in the northern and western suburbs or in the city.

SA Health says people who have visited any of the below locations during the listed time do not need to self-quarantine but you should monitor for symptoms and get tested immediately if symptoms appear:

ADELAIDE: Bensons Radiology, 3/18 North Terrace, Friday 13 November 8.30am – 8.45am

Bus 502 – Bus Stop H2 On Grenfell Street, Friday 13 November 9.00am – 9.30am

Bus (GA1/GA2/GA3) from bus stop near train station, Wednesday 11 November 3.40pm – 4.38pm

GEPPS CROSS: Stratco, 59 Port Wakefield Rd, Saturday 14 November 12.45pm – 1.25pm

ELIZABETH: Elizabeth Shopping Centre, Wednesday 11 November 10.00am – 10.45am

GLENGOWRIE: Morphett Arms Hotel, 138 Morphett Rd, Friday 13 November 5.00pm – 10.00pm

HENDON: Prime Liquidators, 6 Philips Cres, Saturday 14 November 12.00pm – 12.30pm

PARA HILLS: 502x Bus – Stop 39 On Bridge Road to Stop S1 On Grenfell Street, Friday 13 November 7.45am – 8.15am

PORT ADELAIDE: Funk Coffee, T15/200-220 Commercial Rd, Saturday 14 November 5.00pm – 5.15pm

Hungry Jacks, 321 Commercial Rd Port Adelaide between 7.30pm Friday 13 November – 2.30am Saturday 14 November

ROSEWATER: United Petrol Station, 128 Grand Junction Rd, Friday 13 November approximately 3pm

Foodland, 144 Grand Junction Rd, Thursday 12 November 7.45 pm (approximately 5 minutes)

SALISBURY DOWNS: Hollywood Fresh Fruit Shop, Hollywood Plaza, Saturday 14 November 10.00am – 11.00am

SOMERTON PARK: Eblen Collision Repair, 240 Brighton Road, Thursday 12 November 8.00am – 4.30pm, Friday 13 November 8.00am – 4.30pm

ST CLAIR: Coles, Cheltenham Parade, Friday 13 November 4.00pm – 4.20pm

WEST LAKES: Westlakes Shopping Centre (Kmart, San Churros, NK Fashion, Coles), Sunday 15 November 1.45pm – 3.45pm

The above locations are in addition to those listed under the Parafield Cluster Health Alert, which can be found on the SA Health website.

Troops prepare for Adelaide deployment

Federal authorities are keeping a close eye on Adelaide’s coronavirus cluster, with more troops preparing to travel to South Australia.

The coronavirus cluster in Adelaide’s north has grown to 20, with investigations continuing on another case.

There have been 11,000 tests conducted in the state over the past two days.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has praised South Australians for getting tested, encouraging people without symptoms to also be checked for coronavirus.

“We are looking for each and every person who might have in any way, shape or form been exposed to come forward,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Hunt said there were 100 Australian Defence Force troops on the ground in South Australia, with authorities meeting to map out how much extra support was needed.

They will be deployed immediately after decisions are made.

Hunt said states had been advised by the national panel of medical experts to increase screening for arrivals from Adelaide.

“Other states may choose to go further, but they’ll have to explain that,” he said.

But Queensland, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and WA have slammed the gates shut on South Australia.

NSW and Victoria – which has now gone 18 days without new coronavirus infections or deaths – have increased screening for Adelaide arrivals.

The measures could set off another round of clashes between the Morrison government and the states, after senior federal politicians criticised Victoria’s approach to easing its tough restrictions.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was scathing about the impact lockdown had on the mental health of Melburnians.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan offered a frank assessment.

“Some of those ministers, Mr Frydenberg and some of those characters, their behaviour was appalling,” he said.

“(Victorian Premier) Dan Andrews did what he had to do … the fact they undermined, criticised and attacked the whole way along during a period of extreme pressure was appalling.

“Steven Marshall has done the right thing and I support him in what he’s doing. I’d urge everyone to support him in what he’s doing.”

Business SA hopes for quick outbreak fix

South Australia’s peak business group is hoping the pain caused by renewed coronavirus restrictions is short-lived as efforts continue to bring a COVID-19 cluster under control.

In an open letter to South Australian business owners, Business SA Chief Executive Martin Haese says the sector understand the impact the new measures will have on so many operators.

“But at this moment in time, a swift and decisive response is needed,” he said in the letter.

“The state government has made these decisions in the best interests of keeping South Australians safe, and ensuring any economic impact is mitigated to the greatest extent possible.

“We are reassured by the premier’s comments that increased restrictions will not last a day longer than necessary.”

Restrictions imposed this week include cuts to the number of patrons allowed in pubs, clubs and restaurants and closing of some businesses including gyms.

They come as the number of virus infections linked to the Parafield cluster grew to 20 on Tuesday.

“The threat from COVID-19 is very real and the next 24 to 48 hours will be critical,” Haese said.

“I have spoken with the Premier in my role on the Industry Response and Recovery Council and we, Business SA, have made it clear we hope this pain will be short-lived.”

Cricketers flee SA to prepare for summer start

Photo: AAP/David Mariuz

BBL players in Adelaide and Australia’s limited-overs stars across the country have departed home and headed to NSW in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adelaide Strikers have flown out for a pre-season camp in Coffs Harbour, while Adelaide-based players from other BBL sides will also now call the NSW north coast home.

Players were enjoying a week off when they got the call to pack urgently and prepare to relocate, with some having to make a mad dash back home from Kangaroo Island.

Adelaide’s coronavirus outbreak, which comes one month out from the first Test between Australia and India at Adelaide Oval, has also prompted CA to alter travel plans for its limited-overs squad.

White-ball paceman Kane Richardson, who recently welcomed his first child with wife Nyki, has remained at home in Adelaide.

But players from Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania – who have been forced to self-isolate as per their states’ rules regarding anybody who recently travelled from Adelaide – touched down in Sydney long before their planned arrival on Sunday.

CA is also likely to rejig the itinerary of its Australia A squad, which includes Test captain Tim Paine, as it seeks to avoid more logistical headaches before a tour game in Sydney starts on December 6.

Paine and other high-profile teammates were part of the Sheffield Shield hub in Adelaide, which wrapped up last week.

No Shield player visited any of the locations flagged by SA Health.

At this stage there is no suggestion that Adelaide’s pink-ball Test could be shifted away from the city but that could easily change if the COVID-19 outbreaks grows, with 20 cases now linked to the original cluster.

SA Premier Steven Marshall said he was “hopeful the cricket will go ahead”, adding he is yet to speak with anybody at CA regarding the issue.

Wicketkeeper Alex Carey is among Australia’s Indian Premier League contingent already training and quarantining in Sydney.

But the South Australian’s wife Eloise and son Louis were part of the COVID-19 chaos.

Carey’s family opted to jump on a plane and rush to Sydney, wanting to ensure they could see the 29-year-old for the first time since he departed for a tour of England in August.

“Unfortunately the news out of Adelaide wasn’t great over the last 24 hours,” Carey told reporters.

“The (Strikers) boys have been able to get back to Adelaide, pack their gear up and get on a flight out as soon as possible.

“Guys are going a great job. Doing what they have to, to keep the ship moving.”

Meanwhile, the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) cancelled all games under its umbrella for the next fortnight as per the state’s recent restrictions on sport.

Australia-Japan defence treaty boosts stability: PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says China shouldn’t fear the signing of a landmark defence treaty between Australia and Japan.

Morrison met with Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo on Tuesday, becoming the first world leader to meet with the new prime minister on Japanese soil since he took over from Shinzo Abe.

Suga and Morrison signed the Reciprocal Access Agreement that streamlines each country’s use of the other’s military bases.

The agreement needs to be ratified by parliament.

If finalised, it would be the first pact by Japan to allow a foreign military presence on its soil after a similar 1960 accord with the United States.

“This is a significant evolution of this relationship, but there is no reason for that to cause any concern elsewhere in the region,” Morrison said.

“I think it adds to the stability of the region, which is a good thing.”

The agreement has been under negotiation since 2014 with the major sticking point being concerns that an Australian serviceman or woman could face the death penalty if convicted of murder or other serious offences on Japanese territory.

Asked how this issue had been “ironed out”,  Morrison didn’t specify, but said Australia would “meet all of its obligations under its international agreements”.

Suga said Japan and Australia are “special strategic partners” that are both committed to fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and are working together to achieve peace and stability in the region.

In a joint statement, the two leaders expressed “serious concerns about the situation” in the South and East China Seas and “strong opposition” to militarising disputed islands and other unilateral attempts to change the status quo, without identifying China.

Biden names inner circle

Picture: Carolyn Kaster/AP.

US president-elect Joe Biden has named several top advisers from his election campaign and a Democratic congressman as senior White House aides, sticking with a tight inner circle as he transitions to the White House.

Biden is focused on preparing to take over the presidency on January 20, despite President Donald Trump’s efforts to reverse the outcome of the November 3 election.

Biden presidential campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon, the first woman to lead a winning Democratic presidential bid, will be named a deputy chief of staff, Biden said in a statement released by his transition team.

Longtime close advisers Mike Donilon and Steve Ricchetti will join the White House as senior advisor to the president and counsellor to the president respectively.

Dana Remus, the campaign’s top lawyer, will be senior counsel to the president.

Another close adviser, Ron Klain, was already named chief of staff.

US Representative Cedric Richmond, who was a co-chair of Biden’s campaign and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, will vacate a House seat in Louisiana to join as a senior adviser and Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Biden, who may name more staff soon, could still be weeks away from naming his cabinet appointees.

The former vice president is also due to discuss national security threats on Tuesday with his own team of advisers, rather than current government officials, as the Trump administration has blocked him from receiving the classified intelligence briefings normally accorded to an incoming president.

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy has not yet recognised Biden as the “apparent winner,” which is needed to release government funding and office space to the president-elect.

A Murphy spokeswoman said the administrator was following precedent and would make a decision once the winner is clear.

One of Trump’s legal challenges will get a hearing on Tuesday in a Pennsylvania federal court, where another setback would likely doom his already slim chances.

US District Judge Matthew Brann will hear arguments in a Trump campaign lawsuit that seeks to block the state’s top election official from certifying Biden as the winner.

To remain in office, Trump would need to overturn results in at least three of the closely contested states in unprecedented fashion, and has no apparent legal means to do so.

Trump supporters are also clinging to hope that recounts could reverse state results, even though experts have said Biden’s margins appear insurmountable.

Georgia is undertaking a manual recount on its own but in Wisconsin the Trump campaign would have to pay for a recount in advance.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday estimated such a recount would cost $US7.9 million ($A10.8 million).

Trump campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine said the campaign would decide whether to pursue a Wisconsin recount in the next few days.

Biden won Wisconsin by about 20,000 votes.

– with AAP and Reuters
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